On Thursday the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared over 1,000 counties across 26 states to be natural disaster areas. This year has been the one of the worst years since the 1930s for drought in America. Drought, along with extreme heat, has prompted the USDA to declare these territories the largest natural disaster area in American history. The declaration gives nearly half the country accesses to federal aid, including farmers and ranchers who have been adversely impacted by the weather.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 56 percent of the country is experiencing drought conditions, which is the largest percentage recorded in the agency’s existence. Adding to the drought is the extreme heat, which according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been the hottest on record for the so far in 2012. These conditions are adversely impacting our nation’s farming and ranching activities, but what about outdoors activities?
The extreme weather has impacted hunters and anglers especially in southern states. Lakes and reservoirs are at all-time lows in many parts of the country. These low water levels and high heat have already caused fish die-offs and it has made spawning more difficult for many species of fish. Hunter’s prey is are also being adversely affected (dying off and reproducing less) by the drought and high temperatures. This means that there will likely be fewer animals during hunting season.
The money and manpower is in place to handle crop insurance claims from this year’s drought situation, according to Bill Murphy, administrator of the USDA Risk Management Service.
Murphy is encouraging farmers with crop insurance to contact their agent/company to be sure that procedures are followed that will allow claims to be properly settled at the satisfaction of the farmers. Ag Professionals dealing with their customers could and should put a bug in the ear of their customers to contact their crop insurance companies, and farm managers have undoubtedly taken appropriate steps because that is part of their professional skill set to know when to do what.
Farmers shouldn’t just change direction on what they are doing such as chopping corn for silage instead of growing it for grain or abandoning it and not doing something that might mitigate damage, such as not irrigating or not spraying to control insects and disease. The insurance company needs included in a discussion of next steps before action is taken.
Murphy explained the situation in a discussion with Mike Adams, host of AgriTalk, during a Wednesday segment of the syndicated agricultural talk show. A short portion of Adams’ questions and Murphy’s answers are included with this article.
Money will be available to handle all the claims, Murphy said. He suggested that the insurance companies are in good financial shape and the government statute related to subsidy of crop insurance is stated as “funds necessary” to settle all claims.
He also noted that the crop insurance companies responded well in 2011 to claims around the country. “As a result of those losses last year, the companies have a very strong, experienced workforce.”
Farmers should not expect quite as short a claim settlement timeframe as years when there are a lot fewer claims, but he expects them to be settled in a timely manner. Farmers have shown patience in the past and he expects it again “as long as they are assured that their claim is in process and there’s an estimated date of payment.”
Certain areas of the Corn Belt have not had many claims in the last few years and making a claim under current rules will be a new experience for many, which is a reason for farmers to contact their insurance agent early. Both Adams and Murphy stressed that good communication is key.